Jumpabola Pragmatic

Your Say on California summer memories

Kids had much more freedom to roam

San Diego was an outstanding place to grow up, and summer was special, although summer was not characterized by a big shift in the weather. The season was marked by the last day of school, and the county fair opening in Del Mar. Summer then took hold in the neighborhoods and in the local attractions like the beach and the zoo. The thought of three months of freedom and fun is something most people can only dream of today. The biggest difference between then and now is simply more people everywhere.

In the late 1950s, our subdivision in Kearny Mesa was developed. Almost every house had an expanse of lawn in the front and in the back. The arrival of summer meant putting a sprinkler attachment on the end of a garden hose, and the neighborhood kids would gather to “run through the sprinklers.”

Our neighborhood also had a small shopping center, anchored by a grocery store that was originally a Mayfair Market. The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile made a memorable visit there, driven by a person who gave away wiener whistles to the kids. There was the occasional small carnival in the parking lot, complete with rides and midway games. A larger carnival would set up across Linda Vista Road from Kearny High, in a vacant lot where the Sharp medical facilities are now.

Ross Elementary was our neighborhood school, and the school grounds were our playground throughout the summer. The gates were often padlocked with a long length of chain that allowed plenty of room for both a kid and a bicycle to slip through. We played ball, used the swings and monkey bars, rode bikes and flew kites on the big dirt field.

Later in the 1960s, we began to branch out a bit from the neighborhood for our summer fun. A parent or older sibling would take a car full of us somewhere and drop us off for the day. Our destinations included:

– Bonita Cove, a small inlet on Mission Bay. We were supposed to be safer swimming unsupervised in the bay than the ocean, although we used to walk across the street (Mission Boulevard) and sneak a dip into what we referred to as “the waves.” Bonita Cove had a raft moored out in the middle in those years, giving us a place to swim to and sun ourselves.

– Belmont Park. In those days it was an old, traditional, somewhat seedy amusement park. There were cotton candy machines and other carnival food, a Haunted House ride and the famous old wooden roller coaster.

– Balboa Park. We would spend an entire day exploring the park, walking through the buildings and going through the zoo. Through the 1960s, children under 16 got in free with no requirement that they be accompanied by an adult.

I’m so grateful that I grew up in such a beautiful, entertaining place. Many more people have discovered our town since I grew up here, but it remains the best place to live.

Patricia Addesso, Del Cerro

‘Endless summers’ were spontaneous


What I miss about summers of old in California is the perceived passage of time when I was younger. “Endless summers” no longer seem endless. Summers today just pass by too quickly. Spending summer in this state used to seem more open-ended, more free. Now, because of bigger crowds, more traffic congestion, etc., you need to spend time planning your activities. Doing things successfully on a whim is now much more challenging. The main issue is the size of crowds engaging in outdoor activities during peak summer months. Beaches are much more crowded, access is more difficult. I think what I miss is the freedom and ease of enjoying all of California’s beauty during the summer months. I miss a less crowded state.

What has improved over the years for summer fun is we now have more choices in this state. We have more amusement parks, more outdoor music venues, more festivals of all kinds. We have more conventions, such as ComicCon. Now during the summer there is something for everybody. Summers of yesteryear used to be more “bare-bones.” There is just so much to do and see in this beautiful state. But again, we also have more people. The population of California has doubled since I graduated high school. With this increase in population, we also have an increase in our cultural diversity. This has fueled all the available summer activities you see today. It seems there is so much more to do in a short period of time.

I also think the weather patterns during summer have changed over the years. I have lived in San Diego for the past 20 years. I grew up and spent my summers in the Los Angeles area. During summer you are required to go to the beach at some point. I’m sorry, I think it is a state law. Los Angeles used to be terribly smoggy. During the summer, in the San Fernando Valley, the heat and air pollution used to be unbearable. I remember going outside riding my bicycle and my lungs would get a burning sensation after a few minutes. That has not been the case during my years in San Diego. I think today summer temps don’t really kick in until the middle or end of September and now they seem to last until the first few weeks of October. We seem to have more frequent Santa Ana wind conditions that are more intense and last longer.

Summer in California has always been and always will be a time to get out, enjoy your life, enjoy other people and cultures, art, sports, music, just lying around on the beach, you name it. There is a reason one out of eight Americans live here in this beautiful state.

David Terry, Lakeside

In many ways, things keep getting better

California summers of old, very old, were nothing like today. In those days, in the 19th century, few people were adept swimmers. They couldn’t get easily to the beach in the days before paved roads and streetcars. Beaches were segregated by race and sex and in some places property owners aggressively shooed away the general public from their beachfronts. There was no surfing, no Beach Boys, no Frankie and Annette, no portable ice coolers.

Within recent memory, we had smoggy days, polluted beaches and bays, tough zoning rules against sidewalk cafes, seedy bars, few summer sports for girls and women.

What I miss are movie palaces where a thousand “Star Wars” fans could revel in the latest exploits of Luke Skywalker & Co. Now we have multiplexes where the auditoriums have rarely more than 500 seats. Currently those theaters are slowly coming back to life, though when my wife and I attended an afternoon showing this week of “In the Heights” at the IMAX in Mira Mesa, there were only six other people present. And I don’t like watching blockbusters on a 34-inch flatscreen TV from my couch. (Bigger isn’t really better.)

Summer road trips in my childhood took us to bare-bones motels with “Are we there yet?” complaints from the backseat. It was a long slog to Lake Tahoe. I don’t relish a cattle-car trip by air, where vacation is a stress test to get there and get back.

But much pleasure remains unchanged: Long days and warm nights. Friends and family for outdoor lunch and dinner parties. Barbecues and beers. Outings to Balboa Park, the waterfront, the backcountry, plowing through a hefty book (I like histories and not Kindles.)

What’s changed for the good? Biking on safe bike paths. A plethora of eating choices from all around the world. The annual Big Bay Boom on the Fourth of July, the multiple choices for entertainment from the Moonlight stage in Vista and the San Diego Symphony venue on the downtown waterfront to Chula Vista’s amphitheater. Formal summer dress has long been banished and we’re all happy to don shorts and sandals to go almost anywhere. Most of us can swim, and if we can’t, lifeguards are at the ready to save us in riptides and from sharks. Of course, girls and women are fully engaged in multiple sports year-round and segregated beaches, hotels and public accommodations are gone for good.

San Diego summer lasts longer than in many places. It extends into October as warm weather lingers — a pattern that unfortunately extends the fire season as a consequence of climate change.

This year summer will be all the more glorious because of the end to pandemic restrictions. People will appreciate the season more than ever. Over the last year, I’ve felt like I was living on an island with nowhere to go. Now the country, but not the whole world, is open once again to summer fun.

Let’s hope this season of joy is permanent and that we don’t backslide into a reemerged pandemic of vaccine-resistant variants and lockdowns once again.

Roger Showley, Scripps Ranch

Speedway used to be a roaring success

Having grown up and still living in the Fletcher Hills region of East County, it’s the “sounds of summer” I miss the most.

Cajon Speedway would begin revving its engines on Memorial Day weekend and continue every Friday and Saturday night through Labor Day. Windows open in our mild climate, we heard the cheers from the crowd, the excitement in the announcer’s voice and the roar of the engines as they raced around the track. Some things you don’t realize will be missed until they are gone and this is one of them. Cajon Speedway closed on August 8, 2005.

Carol Smith, Fletcher Hills

California wasn’t as crowded back then

What I miss most about past summers is there wasn’t the amount of people, everywhere!

Back in the 1960s, when I was a new teen driver, it was so much safer to drive on the new “highway 5,” and other roads going to Ocean Beach to surf. With so few cars on the road, it was easier to learn to drive, without the danger teens face today.

Then, I’d get to the beach and there were a few hundred people, spaced all over the beach, with no one too close so as to be uncomfortable. When surfing, there were very few people to compete for waves. From what I’ve seen over the years, in order to get a wave, you’ve got to plow through or over what seems like tens of other surfers for a wave, causing anger and looking like it’s not that much fun.

Going to a good restaurant now, the wait always seems too long. Back in the day, you could go right in and sit right down to be served. This, again, seems especially true at the beach. The beach towns now are over crowded, with too much traffic on the streets and hoards on the boardwalks.

Summer time in San Diego, and Southern California has always been special. Just look at all of the music and movies made about it since the 50’s. Sad that due to so many people, we seem to have lost all of that charm.

Summer is still special. I live at the beach in Rosarito Beach part of the year, and due to COVID-19, we’ve kind of gone back in time, without that many people to deal with. That it could stay this way!

G.D. Morrill, Rosarito Beach

Not everything needed to be so structured

Summers of old meant day camp at the “Y.” In the bus, we had a set group of songs that we sang every day to which we knew all the words: “John Jacob Jingle Heimer Schmidt,” “Piccolomini-piccolomini,” “Mayonnaise and Tootsie Rolls” (don’t put your trash in my trash can)…and more. I miss the camaraderie of those shared songs. When I got older and went to sleep-away camp, there were different songs, but the songs still united us: “Let there be peace on Earth,” “Day is done,” “Hmmm, I want to linger.”

Although we had counselors, they did little to mind us. You ran off with friends and you fried from sunburn, shared your food, defied death, and loved it. I was regularly 30 feet up in a tree or deep in a lake or ocean. I miss when kids could (mostly) safely play unsupervised.

After camp, I’d play in the street with the neighborhood kids. There was never any organized game. We’d sword fight with plants, squirt olives at passing cars, and make up stories. We drank from garden hoses and ate roadside honeysuckle, wild licorice, and something we called sour flower. I miss the innocence of that age and reliance on imagination rather than gadgets.

We never exchanged phone numbers so when the summer was over, your camp friendship was too. You’d hope to see people next year but you didn’t count on it. That’s just the way it was. Friendships were easily made and casually discarded. I don’t miss that and I’m grateful we can more easily stay connected. I’m also grateful for air-conditioning, shave ice, and bottled water — none of which was readily available to me in the summers of old.

Nikki Levy, Scripps Ranch

Some of the things we miss are still here

I miss my childhood.

My high school class of older-than-Boomers folks has been conversing on Zoom, and our sentences usually begin, “When we were kids …”. We seemed to have more freedom to roam the neighborhood, go to parks and school playgrounds, have squirt gun battles and make up our own games. Not many mothers worked outside the home. More of us lived in kid-filled neighborhoods. I loved working at summer camps, spending vacation time at Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe with the family across the street with whom I had a steady babysitting job.

As a grandparent, my observation is that, now, kids are programmed in camps, transported by car somewhere. Now it’s TV, videos, video games and tablets inside air conditioned homes. Of course there are safety issues, security and violence to be wary of, but I’m not sure that’s an improvement. Except there are better remedies for poison oak and mosquito bites.

What I’ve missed most, at least this year, have been the outdoor concerts in the parks and by the beach, the street festivals, longer days, warmer nights, outdoor plays, music, movies in the parks, and picnics. At least we’ve brought back drive-ins, and I hope we keep them going.

Ah, well, the smell of grilling is wafting in my window. And there’s the ice cream truck!


Pat Green, Oak Park